Attendant Deities Of Vishnu

Garuda: Lord Vishnu rides a bird which is half-man, half eagle called Garuda or Garutman. He represents the Vedas and, according to the Puranas, he is the son of rishi Kashyapa (vision) and Vinata (she, before whom knowledge bows), one of the daughters of Daksha (ritual skill). Vinata lost a wager to her co-wife Kadru. According to the wager, who ever lost the wager had to serve as a slave to the other. When the Ocean of Milk was churned, a celestial horse called Ucchaishravas made its appearance from the ocean. Without looking at the horse, Vinata said that the horse was pure white and Kadru said that it had black spots on its tail When Kadru realized that the horse was indeed pure white, she ordered her children, the snakes to go and cling to the tail of the horse.

With black snakes clinging to its tail, the horse appeared from a distance to have a spotted tail. Without ascertaining the facts, Vinata accepted her defeat and started serving her co-wife as a slave. Many years passed in her misery and ultimately, her son Garuda managed to buy his mother’s freedom from Kadru by stealing for her ambrosia, the drink of immortality from Indra. Because of the deception of his stepmother Kadru, Garuda hated all snakes and with the help of Indra, he became their master. Garuda married Unnati (progress) and from her are descended all the serpent eating birds. Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu is an enemy of serpents ie., the Naags. Garuda is a Solar divinity and the serpent represents the watery elements.

The myth of Garuda devouring the serpents is often interpreted as the Sun drying up the marshes which are the abode of serpents. Garuda is depicted as an immensely big and strong bird of golden or sometimes white colour who can take any shape he pleases. His eyes are red and shining, his head is of an eagle with a red beak, and he has feathery wings. His belly is large and his arms are like those of a man. He is usually shown with two arms but sometimes with four, eight or sixteen arms. He is mostly shown devouring a snake. He has five names: Satya, Supama, Garuda, Tarkshya, Vigharshwara. The first four are associated with the-four directions.


While Lord Vishnu is shown riding Garuda in his waking state, when Creation is withdrawn. He is shown sleeping on a -thousand headed gigantic serpent called Ananta, the endless or Shesa-naag, the Remainder. This Ananta, represents the eternity of time’s endless revolutions and harbours the germ and the essence of future life. He floats above the Ocean, which is the whole universe, and is counted the first among the chief attendants of Lord Vishnu. Where Lord Vishnu goes, Ananta serves as the manyhooded protective umbrella, a sign of royalty as he is the first among the gods according to the vaishnava belief.

When Lord Vishnu sits, Ananta serves as his seat; when Lord Vishnu reclines, he serves as the couch; when Lord Vishnu during the Yoganidra period reposes on the Ocean, of Milk, Ananta serves as the buoyant support His colour is white and he has 1000 hoods. He is often depicted seated on the primordial tortoise with the conch and the discus as his standard and bearing a plough, a lotus, a rosary and a pestle.

The city of Anantanag in Kashmir is believed as its original abode from times immemorial and is named after the serpent Anantnaag, the endless serpent Till today there is an ancient temple dedicated to him, showing the massive coils of the serpent.


Vishvakshena is the Commander-in-chief of the divine forces in Vaishnava temples. He is approached first before the worshipper approaches Lord Vishnu with offerings of worship. He has a round belly, 2-4 hands, holds the conch, the discus and the mace, and one hand displays comforting gesture or the Jnana-mudra. His complexion is dark, hair red, nose broad, white teeth revealed by a smile, eye brows curved, nails pointed. He is crowned with a resplendent diadem, has a benign nature, but sometimes shows flashes of anger.


Sudarshana is personified protective Discus of Lord Vishnu. He is depicted standing with the discus in his right hand and often with a ferocious temper. To the true devotee, he offers succour and the devotee might get wealth, relief from disease and other benefits. Iconographically he is shown standing in the circle of flaming wheel with 4,8,16 or 32 hands. His colour is that of flame and his murti is usually made of gold, silver or copper.

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